Flat: Reclaiming My Body from Breast Cancer by Catherine Guthrie
Published: September 25, 2018
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genres: memoir, LGBTQIA+, medical, non fiction, feminism
Rating: 5 stars
Recommend to fans of: memoirs that don’t gloss over the difficulties, women who tell it like it is
Foodie Vibes: green tea, rice cereal with almond milk
A feminist breast cancer memoir of medical trauma, love, and how she found the strength to listen to her body. As a young, queer woman, Catherine Guthrie had worked hard to feel at home in her body. However, after years writing about women’s health and breast cancer, Guthrie is thrust into the role of the patient after a devastating diagnosis at age thirty-eight. At least, she thinks, I know what I’m up against.
She was wrong. In one horrifying moment after another, everything that could go wrong does–the surgeon gives her a double mastectomy but misses the cancerous lump, one of the most effective drug treatments fails, and a doctor’s error may have unleashed millions of breast cancer cells into her body.
Flat is Guthrie’s story of how two bouts of breast cancer shook her faith in her body, her relationship, and medicine. Along the way, she challenges the view that breasts are essential to femininity and paramount to a woman’s happiness. Ultimately, she traces an intimate portrayal of how cancer reshapes her relationship with Mary, her partner, revealing–in the midst of crisis–a love story.
Filled with candor, vulnerability, and resilience, Guthrie upends the “pink ribbon” narrative and offers a unique perspective on womanhood, what it means to be “whole,” and the importance of women advocating for their desires. Flat is a story about how she found the strength to forge an unconventional path–one of listening to her body–that she’d been on all along.
Thank you to NetGalley, Skyhorse Publishing and Catherine Guthrie for an ARC ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me.
My honest to goodness first thoughts were something along the lines of, well this will be a depressing read. And in some ways it is. Cancer sucks. But the book is also educating, validating, inspiring, harrowing, and thought provoking. The intersection of medicine, feminism, and the LGBTQIA+ community is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Her story fills a gap of information and experiences that’s not discussed in the world of pink on pink on pink of breast cancer.
Flat gives a voice to women who choose not to have reconstructive breast surgery after a mastectomy. At first thought it seems like such a radical idea, but after reading I’ve become so much more educated the autonomy that women should have over their own bodies, especially when dealing with a health crisis. The story is not a happily ever after fluffy feel good Lifetime movie nor is it so utterly depressing, but a real life look at living with cancer and fighting for your life and happiness.
As I’m writing this I cannot think of anything negative to say about the book, so I’m bumping up the star rating to a 5.
While it’s a bit of a heavy topic, do yourself a favor and read the book. The discussions about health, feminism, the medical world, relationships, chronic illness and body autonomy are fascinating, necessary and impactful.
How can books teach us things we didn’t know we needed to learn? #privilege